As we know search engine result pages are different from one location to another even for queries using exactly the same terms. ‘Alquiler de coche Sevilla’ (rental car in Seville) would return substantially different results for someone based in Birmingham (UK) than from someone in Montpellier (France).  The paid areas of the SERPs will be different and the organic results are likely to be different too, even if both users happen to be using http://www.google.es/

It gets more complex if you happen to be managing multi-site search marketing campaigns across a region or continent and wondered how local users on the target countries actually visualise your paid or organic listings on the Google SERPS?

Even if you are simply running one or two search marketing campaigns, but find yourself in an alien location to the target location (country, region or city), you would find a tool like Google Global. There of course other more advanced tools that return ranking data in different locations but Google Global is very useful for quick visualisation of the SERPS, if you are using Firefox.

SERPs on Google.es for alquiler de coche en Sevilla

Google results for 'alquiler de coche en Servilla'

Google Global will allow you to set up us specific custom profiles for each of your target locations ( see below ) , so if say you are running two campaigns in parallel both in Brussels and Bruges, you will be able to define the local codes for those two cities/towns and even specify an IP address for the exact location where you would want to check the SERPs from.

Imagine you are in Milan, Italy, and one of your colleagues is in Dusseldorf, Germany. You can the configure the tool not only to see results from a Dusseldorf location perspective but also enter your colleagues’ IP address to view the SERPs in exactly the same manner as your colleague would see it.

google global options for customisation of locations

Customise your locations at ease with the Google Global browser extension

The extension creators, Redfly, have made it easy for search marketers to use the tool by allowing access to data such as Google City Codes and standard Region Codes. In addition you can have the extension configure for many different locations across the global or a single region.

listing of locations in google global

Get a full list of all your customise locations

With one click over the  ‘Google global’ button on the Firefox browser you can quickly check the SERPs on any location around the globe.

select the location desired directly from your browser bar

Select your location from your browser toolbar

The good news for those making the transition from Firefox onto another browser is that, the extension is also available for Google’s browser Chrome.

If you know other free tools that do the same job or better, please feel free to comment.

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I will be at LeWeb10 this year

Le Web logo

I am on the participants list for ‘LeWeb’ 2010!

LeWeb event in Paris is one of the biggest Internet events in Europe. It has been selling out every year for the last 6 years with 2500 participants in 2009. It is aimed at all enthusiasts who take a deep interest in the web, web technologies, and the various opportunities it bringing us all.

After having missed this unique event for six consecutive years, I am making it this year attendance and am really looking forward to it. I bought my ticket early back in February on 50% reduction as an ‘Early bird’.

Every year there is a program theme for LeWeb. To date the program theme and agenda for 2010 is not yet decided. Last year’s theme was the ‘Real-time web’ and they spoke about Twitter & Facebook and their exponential growth in the previous year, reactions from Google, Microsoft and MySpace. They also spoke about opportunities for new entrepreneurs in the light of the ‘real-time web’, the many different applications being made available for iphone, Twitter, and facebook as well as the challenges it presents.

One other topic that was discussed last year, which I think it will also be popular this year is the ’free culture’ of the web and the challenges this presents for companies that need to get a return on the investment they make in offering free Internet services.

One other remarkable highlight of last year’s LeWeb event was the participation of Queen Rania Al Abdullah, from Jordan who spoke about how she had been using Social media for educational purposes and helping raise the need for every child around the world to be educated on the real-time web for real time change at the Le Web Conference – Paris December 10th, …

Like in all big events, there are official bloggers that ensure there is enough coverage during all sessions for everyone to be up-to-date with all ‘goings-on’ at LeWeb. Some of these official bloggers can be popular and successful European Search news blogs, such as Search cowboys.

To add to the standard agenda packed with scheduled events, there are usually some workshops running in parallel, and a ‘start-up’ competition usually sponsor by some online news player, TechCrunch did the job in 2009.

If you want to know a bit more about what’s going to happen this year at LeWeb, hear the Loic LeMur present LeWeb 2010 as the venue will be moved back to LesDocks, where it used to be done back in 2007:

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ruben martinez, director de marketing en nestoriaYou may leverage the reach and impact of your original and valuable new content by hosting it in an old website instead of setting up an ad-hoc site for it. In SEO terms, old sites are 5 years old or over (1). Google disproportionately values content hosted on old sites. This translates into higher ranking and greater exposure of content.

Google’s ranking algorithms evolved to value trust over popularity. Trust is only obtained in the long term. Popularity is abused by web spammers by artificially inflating the number of links that their sites obtain. On the other side, new content may rank high thanks to QDF or Query Deserves Freshness but it only operates in the short term.

Buying a new domain and setting up a new site is probably not the most efficient way to expose your content to the maximum audience via Google. Does your organization own and operate sites that are no longer in use? Trust is more often than not wasted by not re-using old sites and starting from scratch on new, unknown sites than only reach their potential to rank higher after many months and years.

Old sites get usually neglected after a change in the business model they were setup to sustain, a drop in passive revenues such as Adsense or a shift in the priorities and motivations of their stakeholders.

Rankings gerontocracy

In many regards Google, perhaps unintentionally, keeps reinforcing a gerontocracy of old sites that lost the high rankings of their best days long ago but who plague the deeper results pages for many competitive queries. New sites, no matter how valuable and disruptive their market proposition, struggle for too long to elbow out those old patriarchs that have outdated content and whose usability and design are lacking.

Of course this phenomenon did not escape the attention of search experts in the early years of SEO. Buying old sites to harness their trust and links is an old practice that Google still fights to eradicate. That makes the business of acquiring old domains and sites a risky one.

There is a whole new expertise of SEO consisting in
1. maintaining your portfolio of sites with new content and links
2. re-engineering broken and links from third parties to retain and grow the trust that those sites, should they be needed in future.

Conclusion

Old sites retain their trust if properly managed over time. Hosting new content on old sites is frequently a safer, faster and more efficient way of promoting it on Google and other traffic sources on Internet.


(1) a new site is up to 6 months old, a young site is between 6 months and 2 years old, a maturing one between 2 and 5 five years and old sites are older than 5 years


About the author: Ruben Martinez is director of marketing at Lokku Ltd in London. He is in charge of the SEO and SEM of a few property search engines in Europe and Australia, Nestoria, Gartoo and a website of home repairs backed by Mapfre in Spain, Agrada.


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Five takeaways from SES London 2010

It feels like ages since SES came back to London last February, but I have only just found time to go through the scribbles and notes that I’d taken during the conference. I have managed to pull out my five top takeaways from the event, which I intend to take action on during 2010.

SES London 2010 auditorium

I like attending Search Marketing industry conference as it does not only provide you with different insights, new experiences and networking opportunities, but it also helps you remember that you have some skills and knowledge that, for some reason, you are not using to good effect.

To the point, my top five takeaways from SES London 2010 were:

  • More emphasis on ‘Conversion rate optimisation’ (CRO):

    There is great potential in implementing CRO techniques and often the secret is to test more often. Read Bryan Eisenberg’s advice on Mel Carson’s blog post or this other one from Andrew Girdwood and watch the video on top right where Bryan is interviewed by Greg Jarboe. If that is not enough, you may want to check the work being done by Conversion rate experts, which I mention in my recap post from the SEOMoz Pro seminar las October.

  • possible parts of a web page to be tested
















  • Tailor your web analytics data reports.

    Focus on the datasets you need to do your work and then make data driven decisions. Give your boss/client the datasets she/he needs to get their ‘buy-in’ into the SEO campaign you are lobbying for. Use custom filters, advanced segments, custom reporting to drill down and segment your data so that you can focus on what is needed to gain the ‘buy-in’.

  • Improve your keyword research techniques

    Try picking more long tails, drawing out more data on them and test their ROI levels upon implementation.

    To get better at Keyword Research, I would recommend to read Richard Baxter’s posts on vlookups, excel tables and pivot tables.

  • Don’t always follow 100% what the expert SEO speakers say

    This is industry where only your own testing and analysis will give you the answers and help you conclude of actions. While I agree that it is good to follow good practice advice, sometimes you have to balance what’s being said against the specificities of the site you are dealing with. Every site is different (eg: size, link portfolio, content) and therefore there cannot be a ‘one rule/opinion fits all’. An example of this is the ‘sitemaps’ topic. Some will tell you there is a lot of benefit in using them and others will say they’re useless. It all depends. This is one of my tweets during the session on ‘Pushing Content Via XML, RSS & Site Maps

    excerpt of a twit talking about sitemaps during SES London 2010

  • Learn Affiliate marketing

    This is a area of Online marketing that I had been ignoring until now but after attending the session ‘New Affiliate Opportunities & Strategies’, I became inspired and noted down some good ideas to take both to my in-house SEO job and to my own sites.

  • Get better at Link building by drilling further on competitor’s link portfolios.

    Jim Boykin‘s session on link building reminded me that I have to get better and faster at using tools like Linkscape and SEO Majestic to analyse competitors’s link portfolio’s and find those links which my sites also qualify for.

If you would like to read more about SES London 2010, the official full blog coverage from SES is a good start.

It feels like ages since SES came back to London last February, but I have only just found time to go through my few scribbles and notes taken during the conference and the various speaker’s slides. I have managed to pull out my five top takeaways from the event, which I intend to take action on during 2010.

I like attending Search industry conference as it does not only provide you with different insights, new experiences and networking opportunities, but it also helps you remember that you have some skills and knowledge that, for some reason, you are not using to good effect.

To the point, my top five takeaways from SES London 2010 were:

  • More emphasis on ‘Conversion rate optimisation’ (CRO):

    There is great potential in implementing CRO techniques and often the secret is to test more often. Read Bryan Eisenberg’s advice on Mel Carson’s blog post or this other one from Andrew Girdwood an watch the video on top right where Bryan is interviewed by Greg Jarboe. If that all is not enough, you may want to check the work being done by Conversion rate experts, which I mention in my recap post from the SEOMoz Pro seminar las October.

  • Tailor your web analytics data reports.

    Focus on the datasets you need to do your work and then make data driven decisions. Give your boss/client the datasets she/he needs to get their ‘buy-in’ into the SEO campaign you are lobbying for. Use custom filters, advanced segments, custom reporting to drill down and segment your data so that you can focus on what is needed to gain the ‘buy-in’.

  • Improve your keyword research techniques

    Try picking more long tails, drawing out more data on them and test their ROI levels upon implementation.

  • To get better at Keyword Research, I would recommend to read Richard Baxter’s posts on vlookups, excel tables and pivot tables.

  • Don’t always follow 100% what the expert SEO speakers say

    This is industry where only your own testing and analysis will give you the answers and help you conclude of actions. While I agree that it is good to follow good practise advice, sometimes you have to balance what’s being said against the specificities of the site you are dealing with. Every site is different (eg: size, link portfolio, content) and therefore there cannot be a ‘one rule/opinion fits all’. An example of this is the ‘sitemaps’ topic. Some will tell you there is a lot of benefit in using them and others will say they’re useless. It all depends. This is one of my tweets during the session on ‘Pushing Content Via XML, RSS & Site Maps

    excerpt of a twit talking about sitemaps during SES London 2010

  • Learn Affiliate marketing

    This is a area of Online marketing that I had been ignoring until now but after attending the session ‘New Affiliate Opportunities & Strategies’, I got inspired and wrote down some good ideas to take both to my in-house SEO job and to my own sites.

  • Get better at Link building by drilling further on competitor’s link portfolios.

    Jim Boikin’s session on link building reminded me that I have to get better and faster at using tools like Linkscape and SEO Majestic to analyse competitors’s link portfolio’s and find those links which my sites also qualify for.

If you would like to read more about stuff that went on during SES London 2010, the official full blog coverage from SES is a good start.

It feels like ages since SES came back to London last February, but I have only just found time to go through my few scribbles and notes taken during the conference and the various speaker’s slides. I have managed to pull out my five top takeaways from the event, which I intend to take action on during 2010.

I like attending Search industry conference as it does not only provide you with different insights, new experiences and networking opportunities, but it also helps you remember that you have some skills and knowledge that, for some reason, you are not using to good effect.

To the point, my top five takeaways from SES London 2010 were:

  • More emphasis on ‘Conversion rate optimisation’ (CRO):

    There is great potential in implementing CRO techniques and often the secret is to test more often. Read Bryan Eisenberg’s advice on Mel Carson’s blog post or this other one from Andrew Girdwood an watch the video on top right where Bryan is interviewed by Greg Jarboe. If that all is not enough, you may want to check the work being done by Conversion rate experts, which I mention in my recap post from the SEOMoz Pro seminar las October.

  • Tailor your web analytics data reports.

    Focus on the datasets you need to do your work and then make data driven decisions. Give your boss/client the datasets she/he needs to get their ‘buy-in’ into the SEO campaign you are lobbying for. Use custom filters, advanced segments, custom reporting to drill down and segment your data so that you can focus on what is needed to gain the ‘buy-in’.

  • Improve your keyword research techniques

    Try picking more long tails, drawing out more data on them and test their ROI levels upon implementation.

  • To get better at Keyword Research, I would recommend to read Richard Baxter’s posts on vlookups, excel tables and pivot tables.

  • Don’t always follow 100% what the expert SEO speakers say

    This is industry where only your own testing and analysis will give you the answers and help you conclude of actions. While I agree that it is good to follow good practise advice, sometimes you have to balance what’s being said against the specificities of the site you are dealing with. Every site is different (eg: size, link portfolio, content) and therefore there cannot be a ‘one rule/opinion fits all’. An example of this is the ‘sitemaps’ topic. Some will tell you there is a lot of benefit in using them and others will say they’re useless. It all depends. This is one of my tweets during the session on ‘Pushing Content Via XML, RSS & Site Maps

    excerpt of a twit talking about sitemaps during SES London 2010

  • Learn Affiliate marketing

    This is a area of Online marketing that I had been ignoring until now but after attending the session ‘New Affiliate Opportunities & Strategies’, I got inspired and wrote down some good ideas to take both to my in-house SEO job and to my own sites.

  • Get better at Link building by drilling further on competitor’s link portfolios.

    Jim Boikin’s session on link building reminded me that I have to get better and faster at using tools like Linkscape and SEO Majestic to analyse competitors’s link portfolio’s and find those links which my sites also qualify for.

If you would like to read more about stuff that went on during SES London 2010, the official full blog coverage from SES is a good start.

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There are clear signs that the social media phenomenon is growing in popularity. Everyone talks about it lately, want to know a bit more about how to get involved, learn new techniques and see whether there is something really there for them and their business. The term ‘social media’ is therefore being used a lot more in marketing conversations.

social media growth both in US and non-US

Social media growth US vs non-US

While there seems to be an increased buzz on social media Europe, I still do not perceive a huge deal of actual campaign work in such area.

In the following Emarketer article you can read: “In the coming years there will be even more changes, as social media marketing extends from the marketing department to nearly every aspect of a company’s business.” … but from the metrics chart on the right, it is clear that the US still takes the lead in implementing social media juding from the expenditure levels (48% vs 52% worldwide).

The article seems to focus on the importance of social media for organisations and the increased predominant role the consumer will play as their voice will be heard more widely. The interesting pick for me on this article is the perceived length of time that a trend, phenomenon or idea takes to influence, evolve and integrate with other cultures. Social media has consistently been on the agenda for about four to five years now, yet it seems to be taking some time to mature in non-US countries.

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Tired of the ‘seo is dead’ thing

By now, you will have read or heard the news on the Internet: ‘SEO is dead’… the whole fad has made some people freak out a bit, particularly those who are not into SEO but directly touched by it: clients, friends who work in sales, affiliates, work colleagues: they have been asking me if they should stop writing good content and worrying about getting more links and concentrate on doing more social media.

seo is dead bookThey have heard that social media seems to be the new SEO. So SEO appears to be dying and social media seems to be taking over and therefore social media marketing is taking over search engine optimisation (seo)….

I have been hearing his ‘SEO is dead’ fad ever since before last summer. The rumour spreaded out quite quickly in the organisation where I work as someone sent out a link to the website that tells about the book you see on the left. The same day I had more than 10 colleagues asking me what I thought about it, whether SEO was really out of the game. My answer was no at the time, and it still is today. So I have written this post to send the link to those who ask me in future.

For as long as at least one of the three points below are true, there will always be SEO, in my opinion:

  • Search engines are like disabled users in many ways
  • websites exist and need to be promoted
  • relevancy and importance are two key ranking factors in the search engine algorithms

SEO and social media are perfectly compatible and they work best when they are working together. SEO is still young, but social media is younger, therefore if I had to choose I would likely alway give priority to investing in SEO. Of course every business is different and there may be times when the nature of the business dictates a social media inclination.

I am listing a few blog posts here to provide some background into the ‘SEO is dead’ story, so that you can then make your own conclusions:

Eric Enge from Stone Temple Consulting and also co-author of one of the best SEO books written recently: The Art of SEO
posted an article on SEW a few weeks ago titled: Is SEO Dying? How will it Evolve?. Eric kicks off his post by saying that many people don’t understand what SEO really is. He also explains why social cannot be taken as a unique way of determining importance (social votes) at least for now, and he uses the Twitter example: ‘what’s best a tweet or an authoritative link?

Recently Peter Davanzo made the following comment on a post he wrote for the SEOBook blog:

“People have been predicting the death of SEO since, well, the beginning of SEO”

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Website Information Architecture methods

What is your preferred approach to information architecture…? assuming your are given the task to re-organise content on a considerably large site, you have to take your preferred approach to organising all the information, categorise it and present it in a logical manner. From experience, having worked on many complex web projects, it can make a big difference to get this right and offer your customers and easy way to understand how your content is organised. There are three standard approaches to IA that boast industry acceptance:

Information architecture methods

Information architecture

1. The SEO-friendly approach: if you work in ‘Search’, your approach will most definitely be this one, and the project will be led by the results of your initial keyword research for that website, so you will likely do the keyword research first and then model the data accordingly. If you are serious about it, you will probably run Pay-per-click campaigns too before you make keyword target decisions.  This is much my preferred approach, particularly if an ‘increase in sales’ is the ultimate goal for the project.

2. The product category-based approach: analysing the product range on offer and categorise it accorgingly. This is typically the product-based approach. It works in the same way when you offer services: organise your services and the information about those services logically and build the site architecture. A combination of the first and second approach can be quite a fire-sure way to end up with a strong and robust site architecture.

3.  The audience-targetting approach: imagine a situation where you would acknowledge your audiences at the beginning of the customer journey as what they are and who they are. You would segment your target audiences based on previous research and reflect the results of your audience knowledge on the website customer journeys, offers and navigation. You would address your visitors in a tailor way in order to be able to offer them customer journeys suited to who they are and what their actual needs are.

My practical, hands-on marketing experience on building Information Architecture started from working on Intranet development websites for a public sector organisation. I then moved onto development public websites. For many years, both my university tutors/lecturers and work colleagues and managers would think of option 3 as a big ‘no, no’. On another hand, option 1 was industry’s unknown territory  until about 2004, and it still is these days in many ways.

Therefore options 2 was the most common approach to IA. In fact. Number 3 would often be suggested by those colleagues who were non web savvy users as it would sound obvious to them to model content in a fashion where you would address your target audiences. But other teams (design, technical, business development, content architects) would pose strong opposition.  The main reason for this reaction would come in the form of something like this:

‘oh, we don’t really need to address our own audiences, they already know who they are, we just need to respond to their needs by offering in a compelling manner the products or services they are looking for‘….

For many years I bought in to that idea and for many years I preached on that too.

Today I still think Option 2 is a fairly good approach to IA, but not the only one and certainly not always the most effective from a marketing performance and customer-focused standpoint.

Suddently, a book I read made me stretch my mind and position on this whole paradigm to do with IA and content modelling. I read one of the most influential books in my online marketing career: ‘The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly‘. In this book, David Meerman Scott, the author explains how important it is to address your real customers once they step into your website. Much in the same way as you would acknowledge someone that comes in to buy in your shop with a ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’.

addressing your target audiences - information architecture. Image by KonstantinosKokkinis

Addressing target audiences

David challenges this whole myth about ‘product-based’ information organisation and prompts us to focus on the customer, who they are and their individual needs with the goal to tailor their search and offer them the exact products that are specific to their needs.

As I have only been doing consultancy outside my in-house SEO job for about two years, I have yet to see when I will be able to contemplate a client-based business model where I would be confortable offering such approach to Information Architecture. I am very keen on the idea that there has to be situations when a audience segmentation, customer-acknoledgement approach would beckon.

Only a few days ago,  I have learnt via Twitter about a conversion rate optimisation success story that highlights this IA methodology, the Voices.com success story by the guys at Conversion Rate Experts.

from conversion rate experts: voices.com audience segmentation

voices.com audience segmentation

Through online visitor surveys and other online user research techniques, these guys identified that the client website had two distinct type of visitors, which were segmented into separate conversion funnels.

I don’t mean to say that this approach can be applied to all sites, but that it is clever to try it and see what results it brings you. If we don’t test different approaches, we will not know what is the best one for our specific online business model.  If you have a website where customers/visitors are not converting, perhaps it is the moment to address this issue from the root and take the customer-centric, audience-segmentation approach.What is your preferred approach to information architecture? …assuming your are given the task to re-organise content on a considerably large site, you have to take your preferred approach to organising all the information, which is likely to be complex and need categorisation of some form.

Information architecture

Information architecture

1. The SEO-friendly approach: if you are into SEO, your approach will most likely be led by the results of your initial keyword research for that website, so you will likely do the keyword research first and then model the data accordingly. If you are serious about it, you will likely run some Pay-per-click campaigns too before you make keyword target decisions.  This is much my preferred approach, particularly if ‘increase in sales’ is the ultimate goal for the project.

2. The product category-based approach: analysing the product range offer and categorise it accorgingly. This is typically the product-based approach. It works in the same way when you offer services: organise your services and the information about those services logically and build the site architecture.

3.  The audience-targetting approach: addressing your audiences at the beginning of the customer journey. You will perform a segmentation of your target audiences and reflect the results on the homepage to be able to offer them customer journey more tailored to who they are and possibly what their needs are.

My practical, hands-on marketing experience on Information architecture started from working on websites in the public sector, where for years, option 3 was a big no no. Option 1 was until about 2004, something not known due to lack of actual good practice in the industry.

Therefore the options were 2 and 3. Number 3 would scare everyone around and had strong opposition from nearly all colleagues in the web teams.  The main reason for this reaction would come in the form of something like this: ‘oh, we don’t really need to address our own audiences, they already know who they are, we just need to respond to their needs by offering in a compelling manner the products or services they are looking for’…. so for many years I bought in to that idea and for many years I preached on that too.

Today I still think it is a fairly good approach to IA, but not the only and certainly not always the most effective from a conversions rate optimisation angle.

A turning point event made me change my mind and position on this: the reading of one of the most influential books in my online marketing career: ‘The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly‘. In this book, David Meerman Scott, the author explains how important it is to address your real customers once they step into your website. Much in the same way as you would acknowledge someone that comes in to buy in your shop with a ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’.

Addressing target audiences. Image by KonstantinosKokkinis

Addressing target audiences

David challenges this whole myth about ‘product-based’ information organisation and prompts us to focus on the customer, who their are and their individual needs with the goal to tailor their search and offer them the exactly the products that are specific to their needs.

As I have only been doing consultancy outside my in-house SEO job for about two years, I have yet to see when I will be able to contemplate a client-based business model where I would be confortable offering such approach to information architecture. I am very keen on the idea that there has to be situations when a audience segmentation, customer-acknoledgement approach would beckon.

Only a few days ago,  I have learnt via Twitter about a conversion rate optimisation success story that highlights this IA methodology, the Voices.com success story by the guys at Conversion Rate Experts.

from conversion rate experts: voices.com audience segmentation

voices.com audience segmentation

Through online visitor surveys and other online user research techniques, these guys identified that the client website had two distinct type of visitors, which were segmented into separate conversion funnels.

I don’t mean to say that this approach can be applied to all sites, but that it is clever to try it and see what results it brings you. If we don’t test different approaches, we will not know what is the best one for our specific online business model.  If you have a website where customers/visitors are not converting, perhaps it is the moment to address this issue from the root and take the customer-centric, audience-segmentation approach.What is your preferred approach to information architecture? …assuming your are given the task to re-organise content on a considerably large site, you have to take your preferred approach to organising all the information, which is likely to be complex and need categorisation of some form.

Information architecture

Information architecture

1. The SEO-friendly approach: if you are into SEO, your approach will most likely be led by the results of your initial keyword research for that website, so you will likely do the keyword research first and then model the data accordingly. If you are serious about it, you will likely run some Pay-per-click campaigns too before you make keyword target decisions.  This is much my preferred approach, particularly if ‘increase in sales’ is the ultimate goal for the project.

2. The product category-based approach: analysing the product range offer and categorise it accorgingly. This is typically the product-based approach. It works in the same way when you offer services: organise your services and the information about those services logically and build the site architecture.

3.  The audience-targetting approach: addressing your audiences at the beginning of the customer journey. You will perform a segmentation of your target audiences and reflect the results on the homepage to be able to offer them customer journey more tailored to who they are and possibly what their needs are.

My practical, hands-on marketing experience on Information architecture started from working on websites in the public sector, where for years, option 3 was a big no no. Option 1 was until about 2004, something not known due to lack of actual good practice in the industry.

Therefore the options were 2 and 3. Number 3 would scare everyone around and had strong opposition from nearly all colleagues in the web teams.  The main reason for this reaction would come in the form of something like this: ‘oh, we don’t really need to address our own audiences, they already know who they are, we just need to respond to their needs by offering in a compelling manner the products or services they are looking for’…. so for many years I bought in to that idea and for many years I preached on that too.

Today I still think it is a fairly good approach to IA, but not the only and certainly not always the most effective from a conversions rate optimisation angle.

A turning point event made me change my mind and position on this: the reading of one of the most influential books in my online marketing career: ‘The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly‘. In this book, David Meerman Scott, the author explains how important it is to address your real customers once they step into your website. Much in the same way as you would acknowledge someone that comes in to buy in your shop with a ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’.

Addressing target audiences. Image by KonstantinosKokkinis

Addressing target audiences

David challenges this whole myth about ‘product-based’ information organisation and prompts us to focus on the customer, who their are and their individual needs with the goal to tailor their search and offer them the exactly the products that are specific to their needs.

As I have only been doing consultancy outside my in-house SEO job for about two years, I have yet to see when I will be able to contemplate a client-based business model where I would be confortable offering such approach to information architecture. I am very keen on the idea that there has to be situations when a audience segmentation, customer-acknoledgement approach would beckon.

Only a few days ago,  I have learnt via Twitter about a conversion rate optimisation success story that highlights this IA methodology, the Voices.com success story by the guys at Conversion Rate Experts.

from conversion rate experts: voices.com audience segmentation

voices.com audience segmentation

Through online visitor surveys and other online user research techniques, these guys identified that the client website had two distinct type of visitors, which were segmented into separate conversion funnels.

I don’t mean to say that this approach can be applied to all sites, but that it is clever to try it and see what results it brings you. If we don’t test different approaches, we will not know what is the best one for our specific online business model.  If you have a website where customers/visitors are not converting, perhaps it is the moment to address this issue from the root and take the customer-centric, audience-segmentation approach.

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Some of the common mistakes multinational companies make when deploying their search marketing strategies are translating keywords.  If you want your SEO strategies to work you should avoid translating keywords. Every language needs to be treated separately and specific keyword research needs to be carried out for every one of them. This point was made very clear at the International Search Summit when speakers like Andy Atkins-Krüger and Bill Hunt quite rightly pointed it out.

During this conference a lot of  lessons were taught. This post is just an overview of what I considered the best highlights for this one day annual event. If you however would like to know everything that happened during this event, you can find a detailed recap post I wrote for the Youmoz section of SEOMoz

Don’t’s

  • Don’t use IP address country detection methods to redirect users to specific language versions of your site. You website could mistakenly take a search engine crawler for a real user and redirect it to the English US version of your website. The other versions of your site would then never get crawled.
  • If a targeted keyword is an accented term, it needs to be considered as a different keyword than its non-accented version. This also applies for plural versions of the term. Eg: bus =NOT buses, impresión in Spanish is not the same as impresion
  • ignore Yahoo if you plan to penetrate in Japan. It is the predominant search engine with a 53% market share, however, don’t completely ignore Google either as it takes up the remainder 47% market share.
  • neglect doing the right research into Dutch culture and society if you plan to bring your product in the Netherlands.
  • fall in the mistake to think that traditional Spanish can be applied to the Latin American context, particularly keywords. Every Latam country speaks a different Spanish. Eg: ‘renta autos’ in Mexico vs ‘alquiler autos’ en Argentina.
  • ignore the great opportunities that Latam markets present at this moment:  SEO is easier than in Europe and NorthAmerica, paid search has very low CPC in Latam (€0.20 per click or even less), yet there is a fairly good average conversion rate.

Do’s

  • use language meta tags : <html lang =”de”>  or <html lang =”en-gb”>
  • enable “enhanced image search” in your Google Webmaster Tools (GWMTs) area account
  • embed your digital assets in text within your webpage copy for better ‘Universal Search’ results on the SERPs.
  • Try MajesticSEO to gain an insight into your competitor’s link portfolio. These can be good sources to grab new links opportunities. Use the folders facility to keep up with the verticals, and use the Link Reclamation feature to get a list of the top pages in the domain.
  • Produce two or three versions of the same press release if you plan to distribute it via different channels.
  • Take into account that Japanese alphabet is made of four different alphabets and words are not separated by spaces as in the Western alphabets.
  • Get hosted in China and choose the right host eg: China Host if you wnt to penetrate in the Chinese market
  • Use ‘simplified Chinese’ as opposed to ‘traditional Chinese’
  • translate your copy in other languages as this is fine so long as you don’t translate your target keywords
  • use neutral Spanish to target Latam countries if you only have the resources to have a single websites
  • consider ‘Machine translation’ (MT) as a solution with an element of human review if you are responsible for enterprise-level content production.

I thoroughly enjoyed this seminar, the presentations and the excellent tips I got on International Search. If you would like to read more, you can start with my detailed recap on the SEOMoz blog or the recap written on the official Web certain blog: Multilingual Search.Some of the common mistakes multinational companies make when deploying their search marketing strategies are translating keywords.  If you want your SEO strategies to work you should avoid translating keywords. Every language needs to be treated separately and specific keyword research needs to be carried out for every one of them. This point was made very clear at the International Search Summit when speakers like Andy Atkins-Krüger and Bill Hunt quite rightly pointed it out.

During this conference a lot of  lessons were taught. This post is just an overview of what I considered the best highlights for this one day annual event. If you however would like to know everything that happened during this event, you can find a detailed recap post I wrote for the Youmoz section of SEOMoz

Don’t’s

  • Don’t use IP address country detection methods to redirect users to specific language versions of your site. You website could mistakenly take a search engine crawler for a real user and redirect it to the English US version of your website. The other versions of your site would then never get crawled.
  • If a targeted keyword is an accented term, it needs to be considered as a different keyword than its non-accented version. This also applies for plural versions of the term. Eg: bus =NOT buses, impresión in Spanish is not the same as impresion
  • ignore Yahoo if you plan to penetrate in Japan. It is the predominant search engine with a 53% market share, however, don’t completely ignore Google either as it takes up the remainder 47% market share.
  • neglect doing the right research into Dutch culture and society if you plan to bring your product in the Netherlands.
  • fall in the mistake to think that traditional Spanish can be applied to the Latin American context, particularly keywords. Every Latam country speaks a different Spanish. Eg: ‘renta autos’ in Mexico vs ‘alquiler autos’ en Argentina.
  • ignore the great opportunities that Latam markets present at this moment:  SEO is easier than in Europe and NorthAmerica, paid search has very low CPC in Latam (€0.20 per click or even less), yet there is a fairly good average conversion rate.

Do’s

  • use language meta tags : <html lang =”de”>  or <html lang =”en-gb”>
  • enable “enhanced image search” in your Google Webmaster Tools (GWMTs) area account
  • embed your digital assets in text within your webpage copy for better ‘Universal Search’ results on the SERPs.
  • Try MajesticSEO to gain an insight into your competitor’s link portfolio. These can be good sources to grab new links opportunities. Use the folders facility to keep up with the verticals, and use the Link Reclamation feature to get a list of the top pages in the domain.
  • Produce two or three versions of the same press release if you plan to distribute it via different channels.
  • Take into account that Japanese alphabet is made of four different alphabets and words are not separated by spaces as in the Western alphabets.
  • Get hosted in China and choose the right host eg: China Host if you wnt to penetrate in the Chinese market
  • Use ‘simplified Chinese’ as opposed to ‘traditional Chinese’
  • translate your copy in other languages as this is fine so long as you don’t translate your target keywords
  • use neutral Spanish to target Latam countries if you only have the resources to have a single websites
  • consider ‘Machine translation’ (MT) as a solution with an element of human review if you are responsible for enterprise-level content production.

I thoroughly enjoyed this seminar, the presentations and the excellent tips I got on International Search. If you would like to read more, you can start with my detailed recap on the SEOMoz blog or the recap written on the official Web certain blog: Multilingual Search.Some of the common mistakes multinational companies make when deploying their search marketing strategies are translating keywords.  If you want your SEO strategies to work you should avoid translating keywords. Every language needs to be treated separately and specific keyword research needs to be carried out for every one of them. This point was made very clear at the International Search Summit when speakers like Andy Atkins-Krüger and Bill Hunt quite rightly pointed it out.

During this conference a lot of  lessons were taught. This post is just an overview of what I considered the best highlights for this one day annual event. If you however would like to know everything that happened during this event, you can find a detailed recap post I wrote for the Youmoz section of SEOMoz

Don’t’s

  • Don’t use IP address country detection methods to redirect users to specific language versions of your site. You website could mistakenly take a search engine crawler for a real user and redirect it to the English US version of your website. The other versions of your site would then never get crawled.
  • If a targeted keyword is an accented term, it needs to be considered as a different keyword than its non-accented version. This also applies for plural versions of the term. Eg: bus =NOT buses, impresión in Spanish is not the same as impresion
  • ignore Yahoo if you plan to penetrate in Japan. It is the predominant search engine with a 53% market share, however, don’t completely ignore Google either as it takes up the remainder 47% market share.
  • neglect doing the right research into Dutch culture and society if you plan to bring your product in the Netherlands.
  • fall in the mistake to think that traditional Spanish can be applied to the Latin American context, particularly keywords. Every Latam country speaks a different Spanish. Eg: ‘renta autos’ in Mexico vs ‘alquiler autos’ en Argentina.
  • ignore the great opportunities that Latam markets present at this moment:  SEO is easier than in Europe and NorthAmerica, paid search has very low CPC in Latam (€0.20 per click or even less), yet there is a fairly good average conversion rate.

Do’s

  • use language meta tags : <html lang =”de”>  or <html lang =”en-gb”>
  • enable “enhanced image search” in your Google Webmaster Tools (GWMTs) area account
  • embed your digital assets in text within your webpage copy for better ‘Universal Search’ results on the SERPs.
  • Try MajesticSEO to gain an insight into your competitor’s link portfolio. These can be good sources to grab new links opportunities. Use the folders facility to keep up with the verticals, and use the Link Reclamation feature to get a list of the top pages in the domain.
  • Produce two or three versions of the same press release if you plan to distribute it via different channels.
  • Take into account that Japanese alphabet is made of four different alphabets and words are not separated by spaces as in the Western alphabets.
  • Get hosted in China and choose the right host eg: China Host if you wnt to penetrate in the Chinese market
  • Use ‘simplified Chinese’ as opposed to ‘traditional Chinese’
  • translate your copy in other languages as this is fine so long as you don’t translate your target keywords
  • use neutral Spanish to target Latam countries if you only have the resources to have a single websites
  • consider ‘Machine translation’ (MT) as a solution with an element of human review if you are responsible for enterprise-level content production.

I thoroughly enjoyed this seminar, the presentations and the excellent tips I got on International Search. If you would like to read more, you can start with my detailed recap on the SEOMoz blog or the recap written on the official Web certain blog: Multilingual Search.

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Dates: Monday 19 and Tuesday 20 October 2009

Wow, what a couple of action-packed days!

SEOMoz Pro training seminar is an annual advanced SEO training event organised by SEOMoz. The event ran in London for first time this year, in partnership with Distilled, a London-based search marketing agency.

SEOmoz-pro-training-seminar

I found this seminar very educational, the quality of the presentations were of high standard due to the topics chosen and the generous approach to give out actionable tips made this event unique. If I had to choose only one  SEM conference to attend every year, likely this one would stand a high chance.

I am not going to cover the event in detail because that’s already been done by SEOMoz, Distilled and plenty of other SEO bloggers that attended the seminar. Instead I am simply going to list my own top 10 learning points or tips that I took home after the seminar.

1. Invest time into mastering Excel for long term benefits: get on with Excel’s advanced features, including filters and pivot tables. It will help you enormously to organise your keyword/keyphrases terms lists, perform permutations of different kinds, mix data from other sources (eg: Linkscape reports from competitors sites, data from GA reports….). It will, in a nutshell, help you analyse data and make faster decisions to move onto other tasks, from Will Critchlow and Richard Baxter.

2. Microsoft has produced a Search Engine optimisation toolkit and is recommended by Dave Naylor.

3. If you do in-house SEO, Richard Baxter‘s advice is to invest as much time as needed to justify the impact of an SEO investment to the management in order to win the business case for SEO. This learning point was complemented by Rand Fishkin‘s presentation the following morning, packed with pretty charts and graphs, to help win the case for SEO to your management or clients. From a corporate SEO perspective I found these two contributions invaluable.

During this presentation, there was a very interesting piece of data that drew my attention: over a third of search engine users are still not aware of the existence of Google Adwords as an advertising scheme. Also, over half of all search engine users are unable to recognise PPC advertising on the SERPs (search engine result pages) meaning they probably click on them thinking they are part of the overall set of natural results.

4. Like SEO, social media should be part of an overall online strategy instead of being a standalone initiative (from Lucy Langdon)

 SEO speakers at the SEOmoz training seminar

5. Bad links can cause harm. When it comes to a situation where rankings have been lost, a lot of those so-called penalties are often just filters. Removing cloaking (eg: hidden links) and ‘bad neighbourhood’ inbound links, can greatly improve your rankings. (from Jane Copland).

6. Ben Hendrickson, the mastermind behind Linkscape gave a speech during the seminar. His conclusions based on SEOMoz Labs various tools being developed was that:

- Search engines are not placing as much importance on H tags as they used to. Keywords placed into H1 and H2 tags do not represent a strong signal to the search engines as those included in images ALT tags.

- Keywords on the domain name have considerable weight in the ranking algorithm, however, repeating the keyword on the path name doesn’t seem to have any positive effect on rankings.

- It is necessary to have more than one complex models for defining ranking factors. It is necessary to look at some other models.

7. The best strategy to be succesful at link building is to realise your site or your client site’s USP ( Unique selling proposition). Once you come to terms with this principle it becomes easier to earn links naturally (using tools like Linkscape or Back link analysis from SEOMoz to identify link opportunities from your competitor’s link portfolios) – from Tom Critchlow.

8. Without any doubt, Ben Jesson‘s presentation provided excellent ideas on how to increase your CRO (conversion rate optimisation) :Ben Jesson & the squirrel at the SEOmoz training seminar

- answering customer objections to your product (the main landing page has to be able to respond to those objections).
- use testimonials to highlight answers to some of those objections.
- perform A/B Testing via Google website optimiser or other tools

Ben already presented some of this material at the SMX London in May this year. The difference with this presentation is that a lot more detail was provided on how to actually get the job done.

9. If you are managing a big site, it is worth spending some time on improving page load time. As the web grows bigger, this is something that search engines are going to start considering more firmly as a factor for ranking sites. I cannot remember who I got this bit from.

10. Make better use of SEOmoz tools and use a combination of them to find out how your competitors do link building, what works best for them and where their linkbait is: Linkscape in conjunction with some of the best tools in SEOmoz Labs.

There was a great deal more of useful tips and advice that was given, such as dealing with scalable information architecture, online PR stuff, vertical search such as Google maps and local business listing optimisation, video sitemap strategies, content strategies, etc… of all, the points listed above were the most significant for me.

One other noticeable trend I noticed was the large number of SEOs I met that were involved in affiliation or running some form of affiliation marketing on their sites… there was a great deal of affiliate marketing discussion and buzz going on during the event itself and also during the evening social gatherings.

If you are interested in reading more about this event and other bloggers’ recaps, I suggest you google ‘SEOMoz Pro Training seminar 2009′ and you will find plenty of related material in different languages depending on the local version of Google you use. For example, this one from Fernando Maciá, in Spanish, was one of the first blogs out to be covering the event.

Charlotte Street Blues venue

I had the chance to meet or catch up with some SEO peers : Dan Reynolds from Strategic TMC, David Jackson from Sixt, Kirsteen Fox from Iglu, Dan Barker from Baker Ross, Ian Bryce from Sony, Alec Kinnear from foliovision, Ari nahmani from Matan Media, Ashkan Parsa from Netgrade, Annabel Hodges.  As I didn’t exchange cards with everyone, apologies to those I do not mention, please drop me an email and I will add you to the list.

As usual, one of the best things about these SEO events is the networking during or after the sessions.

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meta-tags fuzz

Despite the fact that keywords meta-tags have lost credibility as a search engine ranking factor quite some time ago, there is quite a bit of buzz on the subject lately. Matt Cutts, Head of web spam at Google has reiterated publicly once again, that the Googlebot ignores keywords embeded into the meta keywords elements of web pages and that they don’t use the meta area at all, at least as a ranking factor.

Such officially post confirms that the Googlebot ignores the keywords meta tag, but it is interesting to still see that everyone suddently starts a conversation about it on the various blogs:

So the clear message from google is keywords meta-tags are useless. However there other search engines, like Ask or Bing that may be still using the keywords metas to ascertain relevance. However, as far as Yahoo is concerned, about a couple of weeks later, they announced that Yahoo Search no longer uses meta keywords tag .

The interesting part of this story is that a few days later, Danny Sullivan, editor of Search engine land, posted an article stating that following a homepage test, he discovered that Yahoo still indexes the meta keywords tag. The experiment consisted of placing a unique word: ‘xcvteuflsowkldlslkslklsk’ in the meta keywords tag on the home page of Search Engine Land. He made a search for this word on yahoo search and Search engine land ranked clearly on top.

What’s the bottom point with this post? should you use the meta keywords tag or not? The consensus amongst SEO experts is :

  • if you already have your meta tags fully populated with keywords leave them there as they are as long as they are relevant to the page topic.
  • if you are starting a new page, you could do with jotting a keyword or two on the keywords meta tag just to be sure that you stand your chances with other search engines and in case, things change in future, and as they will be useful for other things that search engine rankings

My personal advice is not to obsess with on page and meta optimisation and not to spend more than a few seconds on that tag when doing development. Instead, focus on link building or creating good content that attracts links naturally.

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